I found a web posting about the Whittington Press Open Day 2017 by accident the other day (http://whittingtonpressshop.com). It reminded me of a trip to the 2009 Open Day with Roy Hammans. This followed an earlier visit when we had gone to see John Randle to talk about Olive Cook and borrow copies of Matrix with articles by or about her. Notes of the day from my diary follow.
‘Drove to Whittington via Whitney: lovely stretch of elevated pavement with trees; a weathered Butter Cross; an urbane green leading down to the church; a churchyard full of beautifully weathered, lichen encrusted headstones. At Whittington people were enthralled by the presses, prints and book displays in the archaic and apparently anarchic works. The visitors constituted a community of interest, as well as seeming to represent a geographical community drawn from the area.’
‘At first glance they seemed to be much of a certain age, but with a number of younger people helping with the presses. There was passion and enthusiasm for the world of fine print, for things of rarity and beauty, for the tactile, physical texts and images that are a joy to handle. And a passion for the process too – mechanical, physical and you can see how it works. A triumph of the real over the virtual.’
‘Visited Whittington Court (the Press is in its grounds) a very fine 16th century house retaining much of its original character – a splendid wooden staircase – all on a very human scale and still home to the family. A living place, quite unlike most big houses open to the public. What history, secrets and mysteries these houses hide. On a bookcase a copy of Herman Goering – The Man and his Work by Erich Gritzbach, with a foreword by Bruce Lockhart, published in an English translation in 1939.’
‘Into the church, which adjoins the house. Small and quite simple. A grey haired man played on an electronic keyboard; no dreary hymns, instead “As time goes by” and “Smoke gets in your eyes”. At the crossing of the nave and chancel a small black and white photograph of a man in uniform, John Neil Randle, whose uncle owned Whittington Court. A piece of text records he died in the Battle of Kohima on 4th May 1944; and at the bottom a credit, ‘Printed by his son, John Randle.’
‘These six words confirm the connection between the Press and the house. What looks like a marginal operation commercially, for all its creative worth, is probably subsidised by minimal rent for the rather ramshackle premises, also maybe some family money.’
‘Down the road the village of Whittington was enjoying its Annual Show. We caught the tail end of cakes, raffle, bygones, ice creams, dog show, Morris Men, vintage arcade games etc. Sheep grazed lazily in the background. There seemed to be a disconnection between the Show and the Press Open Day, despite being only 200-300 metres apart. People going to one, but not the other. Differences in culture and class, or maybe just divergent interests?’
Photos: 1-3, 6, Whittington Press Open Day; 4 Whittington Court; 5 John Randle, Whittington Press Open Day; 7 Whittington Show; all September 2009